Posts Tagged ‘Kiev’

DEBUNKING PUTIN’S ‘FASCIST KIEV’ MYTH

July 31, 2015

Wall Street Journal on July 30, 2015, in a commentary reported on how Jews from eastern Ukraine seek refuge further west in Ukraine from the Russian invasion. Among the justifications Vladimir Putin has offered for his hostility to the democratic government of Ukraine is that it is led and supported by “anti-Semitic forces.” But sit down with some of the Jews who have fled Russian-instigated violence in the east to find refuge in the capital of this supposedly neo-fascist state, and another story emerges. Excerpts below:

Consider the Kvasha family, among several thousand Jews uprooted by Mr. Putin’s invasion. You enter the family’s building on the outskirts of Kiev through a dim reception, where the walls have long turned a dark gray and a dank stench hovers. The Kvashas—dad Sergey, mom Valeria and their two boys Nikita, 17, and Arseny, 8—are crammed into a one-bedroom apartment on the fourth floor.

Inside the neatly kept apartment, a menorah sits atop a piano that has seen better days. It’s all a far cry from the Kvashas’ happy former lives in eastern Ukraine.

When I visited on Tuesday, Mr. Kvasha was at work at a printing business, where he’s a manager. Back in Luhansk, the family had its own printing firm, while Mrs. Kvasha worked as a general engineer at the local college. In addition to their apartment, the Kvashas owned a dacha, or vacation home. They were prominent and successful members of a vibrant Jewish community existing within what they describe as a tolerant Donbass society.

Then Mr. Putin launched his invasion. “When the fighting started a missile hit our building,” Mrs. Kvasha recalls. Five of their friends and neighbors were killed in attacks. Having already sent the kids to Kiev in early June 2014, Mr. and Mrs. Kvasha caught the last train out of Luhansk a few weeks later. Two bags stuffed with summer clothes were all they managed to take with them, and by August they had depleted their savings.

Building new lives in Kiev hasn’t been easy. Finding a permanent apartment was the first challenge. Landlords are reluctant to rent to refugees, seen as itinerant and unreliable.

In dire straits, the Kvashas turned to the Joint Distribution Committee, an American-Jewish organization. While the parents were still unemployed, the JDC provided the family with some $142 in monthly food assistance as well as blankets and other winter relief—crucial assistance, since their flat, once they’d secured one, cost about $165 a month. The organization continues to help the family pay rent.

The JDC also helped the Kvashas find a sense of belonging. Like many of Ukraine’s 350,000 Jews, the family’s connection to Judaism is more cultural than religious. At a Jewish community center in Kiev called Beiteinu, or Our Home, they found new friends. The JDC supports 21 such centers across Ukraine, and Mrs. Kvasha now works at Beitanu, helping other refugees find their footing.

I sat down on Tuesday with Ms. Brook, Mr. Fireman and four other elderly displaced Jews at one of the 32 social-welfare centers, or Heseds, the JDC runs across Ukraine, normally serving some 65,000 elderly and impoverished Jews, to which 5,200 have been added since the war began. Most escaped with little more than the clothes on their backs,…

Such Jewish charities operate openly here, under a government that frequently describes all Ukrainians displaced by the fighting, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, as compatriots. Ukraine, far from being the anti-Semitic nation of Putinist fantasies, has given them refuge. As one of the Hesed clients told me: “Write in your paper, we people from Donetsk and Luhansk love our country. We are patriotic. We don’t want to leave Ukraine.”

A MESSAGE FROM UKRAINE’S PRESIDENT PETRO POROSHENKO

July 29, 2015

Wall Street Journal on July 28, 2015, published an interview with President Poroshenko in Kiev. Excerpts below:

As befits a head of state managing a war, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is blunt in an interview at the presidential-administration building here. Asked about the kind of weapons his armed forces would need to deter further aggression by Russia and its separatist proxies in eastern Ukraine, Mr. Poroshenko gets specific: “We’re looking for just 1,240 Javelin missiles, and this is absolutely fair.”

The number 1,240 has special significance for Mr. Poroshenko. He says that was the number of nuclear warheads Ukraine gave up under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, jointly signed by the U.S., Britain and Russia. “Ukraine voluntarily gave up its nuclear arsenal,” Mr. Poroshenko says, “and in exchange for that the United States of America and Great Britain . . . promised to guarantee our sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Compared with strategic weapons, 1,240 Javelin missiles are small beer. Yet the Obama administration has thus far refused to transfer to Kiev the antitank system—or any other form of lethal aid. Mr. Poroshenko is thankful for American political support, loan guarantees and nonlethal assistance, including Humvees, night-vision goggles, military-to-military training and artillery computers that allow Ukrainian troops to better protect themselves against shelling. Yet such assistance has so far failed to change Russian supreme leader Vladimir Putin’s calculus in the war.

Rather than helping Kiev impose real costs on the aggressor, Washington and the European powers are pushing both sides to work through the Minsk process, a series of accords negotiated in the Belarussian capital and aimed at de-escalating the conflict.

Russian forces and proxies in the east violate the letter and spirit of Minsk II on a daily basis. The latest evidence: Ukrainian forces over the weekend apprehended a Russian officer transferring a truck loaded with ammunition to a separatist position near Donetsk. “Today he gave up his full name,” Mr. Poroshenko says, for the first time confirming the officer’s rank and home base. “He is a major of regular forces who comes here to kill my people.” The officer’s home base is in Russia’s Rostov region.

Then there is the constant shelling. On Sunday there were 70 instances of shelling from separatist positions. The daily average during the past two months was 100.

Nor does Minsk II address Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. The concern in Kiev is that the West would be willing to trade away the peninsula in exchange for calm in eastern Ukraine. “If anybody proposed to the U.S. to give up the Florida Peninsula,” the Ukrainian president says, “something like that would not work. This is our land. . . . Whether it’s Donetsk, Luhansk or Crimea, at the end of the day, they will be freed.”

“We aren’t demanding that British, American or French soldiers come here and fight for us,” Mr. Poroshenko says. “We’re doing this ourselves, paying the most difficult price”—here his voice breaks momentarily—“the lives of my soldiers. We need just solidarity.”

The West would ultimately pay the price for appeasement and myopia. “If we do not stop the aggressor,” Mr. Poroshenko says, “that means global security doesn’t exist. Anytime, any plane or submarine can make a missile attack, including against the U.S.”

As Mr. Poroshenko puts it, the question the Ukrainian people are posing to the world is: “Are you together with the barbarian or together with the free world?” How is the leader of the free world doing on that front? Mr. Poroshenko’s response is marked by subtle elisions: “I think the most important, we feel the support of the people of the United States—very, very strong support—no matter if they’re Republicans or Democrats.”

He never mentions President Barack Obama by name during our interview.

KILLED PROTESTER MOURNED IN UKRAINE AMID CRISIS

January 27, 2014

Fox News on January 26, 2013, published an AP report on thousands of Ukrainians chanted “Hero!” and sang the national anthem, as a coffin carrying a protester who was killed in last week’s clashes with police was carried through the streets of the capital, underscoring the rising tensions in the country’s two-month political crisis. Excerpts below:

Mikhail Zhiznevsky, 25, was one of three protesters who died in clashes Wednesday.

“He could have been my fiance, but he died defending my future so that I will live in a different Ukraine,” said Nina Uvarov, a 25-year-old student from Kiev who wept as Zhiznevsky’s body was carried out of St. Michael’s Cathedral.

The opposition contends that Zhiznevsky and another activist were shot by police in an area where demonstrators had been throwing rocks and firebombs at riot police for several days. The government claims the two demonstrators were killed with hunting rifles, which they say police do not carry. The authorities would not say how the third protester died.

Meanwhile, protests against President Viktor Yanukovych continued to engulf the country, now beginning to spread to central and eastern Ukraine, the leader’s support base.

In Dnipropetrovsk, 240 miles southeast of Kiev on the Dnipro River, several hundred demonstrators tried to storm a local administration building, but police drove them back with water sprayed from a fire truck in subfreezing temperatures, the Interfax news agency reported. In Zaporozhets, about 45 miles down river, demonstrators gathered outside the city administration building.

Zhiznevsky’s body was then carried several hundred yards to Independence Square in central Kiev, where protesters have established a large tent camp and held demonstrations around the clock since early December. Crowds shouted “Yanukovych is a murderer!” and “Down with the criminal,” a reference to Yanukovych’s run-ins with the law during his youth. The coffin was then carried to the site of Zhiznevsky’s death at barricades near the Ukrainian parliament.

A crowd on late January 25 besieged a building, throwing fireworks, firebombs and rocks, near the protest tent camp where about 200 police were sheltering. By early the next morning, a corridor was created, allowing police to leave.

On January 26, activists were cleaning up the devastated Ukrainian House building, sweeping broken glass and furniture, but also the trash left there by police.

The overnight outburst came soon after opposition leaders issued a defiant response to Yanukovych’s offer to make Arseniy Yatsenyuk, one of their top figures, the country’s prime minister…He vowed protests will continue.

About half of Ukraine’s people favored deeper integration with the EU, according to polls, and many Ukrainians widely resent Russia’s long influence over the country.

In the past week, demonstrators have seized government administration buildings in a score of cities in western Ukraine, where Yanukovych’s support is weak and desire for European ties is strong.

Zhiznevsky was from Belarus, a neighboring ex-Soviet country where hardline President Alexander Lukashenko has jailed and harassed his opponents. Vladimir Neklyaev, a Belarusian opposition leader, came to Kiev to bid farewell to Zhiznevsky.

“Ukraine is showing Belarus an example of how one should fight for freedom,” Neklyaev said. “I am sure that our countries have a common future in Europe, where neither Ukrainians nor Belarusians will die.”

Despite an offer to release activists and stop more persecutions, the government continued a crackdown, with over 40 detained in the central city of Cherkasy after a protest, according to prosecutors.

UKRAINE RIOTS RESUME, FIRES LIGHT UP NIGHT SKY

January 25, 2014

Fox News on January 24, 2014, reported that hours after the president’s comments, huge fireballs lit up the night sky in central Kiev and plumes of thick black smoke rose from burning tires at giant barricades erected by protesters.

Clashes resumed at the barricades, which are just yards from lines of riot police and also made up of bags of ice and scraps of furniture.

Angry demonstrators hurled firebombs, rocks and fireworks at officers. Riot police responded with tear gas and several dozen protesters were rushed to a makeshift medical triage area to be treated.

“We will force the authorities to respect us,” 27-year-old protester Artur Kapelan said. “Not they, but we will dictate the conditions of a truce.”

The fighting had stopped earlier this week as opposition leaders entered into face-to-face talks with Yanukovych.

But hundreds of demonstrators in ski masks and helmets were still armed with sticks, stones and firebombs at the Kiev barricades.

After nearly two months of ignoring mass demonstrations calling for his ouster, Yanukovych offered to meet some of their demands, after crowds angered by the deaths of at least two protesters and allegations of abuse by authorities besieged government buildings in scores of cities in western Ukraine.

…Vitali Klitschko, an opposition leader who is a former world heavyweight boxing champion, declared the only way to end the street protests — known as the Maidan after the central Kiev square occupied by demonstrators — is for Yanukovych to resign.

“Just a month ago, the Maidan would have gone home,” Klitschko told reporters, according to the Interfax news agency. “Today, people are demanding the president’s resignation.”

The protest law enacted last week appeared to have backfired on Yanukovych, sparking confrontations in which demonstrators threw stones and firebombs at police, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. The violence was a harsh contrast to the determined peacefulness of the anti-government protests that have gripped the country for the last two months.

At least two demonstrators were killed this week in clashes with police and protesters have seized government offices in cities in western Ukraine, where support for Yanukovych is thin.

In a separate incident, a protester was found dead outside Kiev this week after going missing from a hospital together with a prominent activist who was beaten but survived.

Meanwhile, protester anger boiled over as one activist recounted how he was stripped naked, beaten and humiliated by police after being detained this week at a barricade in Kiev.

“They wanted to break my spirit and dignity but I stood firm,” said Mykhailo Havrilyuk.

His plight shocked the country when a video of the abuse was posted online, showing him standing naked in the snow, covered in bruises and taunted by policemen. Protesters were further angered after Kiev courts placed about a dozen activists, detained in clashes earlier this week, under arrest.

…protesters continued occupying government buildings in a number of cities in western Ukraine, having forced two governors to resign and chasing another out of his office. Government buildings in many other cities were besieged by angry crowds.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who spent several years backing the scrapped EU agreement with Ukraine, suggested that Yanukovych was losing control over the country. He posted a map of Ukraine on his Twitter account, where many regions were shown engulfed by protests.

“If Kiev regime tries a military solution to this situation, it will be very bloody and it will fail,” Bildt tweeted.

EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele flew to Kiev on January 24 to meet with Yanukovych and the opposition and try to broker a solution. The West has been urging Yanukovych to compromise with the protesters as well as threatening sanctions against his government.

“The country is sliding towards dictatorship and we must stop that,” said Denis Nakhmanovich, a 33-year-old protester.

UKRAINIAN PROTESTERS OCCUPY GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS – PRESIDENT UNDER INCREASED PRESSURE

January 24, 2014

Fox News on January 24, 2014, reported that protesters have erected new barricades and seized a government building in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev while also maintaining the siege of several governors’ offices in the country’s west, raising the pressure on the government after a critical meeting with the president.

After meeting with President Viktor Yanukovych, opposition leaders told the crowds that he has promised to ensure the release of dozens of protesters detained after clashes with police and stop further detentions. They urged the protesters to maintain a shaky truce following violent street battles in the capital,…

…some protesters were still resistant. Early Friday, the protesters broke into the downtown building of the Ministry of Agricultural Policy, meeting no resistance.

On January 23, demonstrators again set aflame barricades of tires that had been quenched when opposition leaders offered the deadline.

The clash site is a few hundred yards away from the protester tent camp on Independence Square, where around-the-clock demonstrations have been held since early December.

At least two people were killed by gunfire at the clash site on Wednesday. Demonstrators had pelted riot police with barrages of stones and set police buses on fire, while the officers responded with rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades.

Enraged protesters stormed government offices in three western Ukraine cities on January 23, forcing one governor to write a letter of resignation, as demonstrations intensified outside Kiev.

The president called a special session of parliament next week to discuss the tensions, telling the parliament speaker: “The situation demands an urgent settlement.” But there was no indication that the move represented a compromise, since the president’s backers hold a majority of seats.

Support for Yanukovych is virtually non-existent in western Ukraine and most residents want closer ties to the 28-nation EU.

In Lviv, a city in near the Polish border 450 kilometers (280 miles) west of Kiev, hundreds of activists burst Thursday into the office of regional governor Oleh Salo, a Yanukovych appointee, shouting “Revolution!” and singing Christmas carols.

After surrounding him and forcing him to sign a resignation letter, an activist ripped it out of Salo’s hands and lifted it up to the cheers and applause of the crowd. Salo later retracted his signature, saying he had been coerced.

Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters smashed windows, broke doors and stormed into the governor’s office in the city of Rivne, shouting “Down with the gang!” — a common reference to Yanukovych’s government. Once inside, they sang the national anthem.

Angry crowds also besieged government offices in other western regions.

Meanwhile, anger spread after a video was released online appearing to show police abusing and humiliating a naked protester in what looked like a location close to the site of the Kiev clashes.

In the video, a young man, his body covered in multiple bruises, wearing nothing but socks, is made to stand on the snow in freezing temperatures, while a policeman punches him in the head and others force him to pose for photos.

The Interior Ministry issued a statement, apologizing “for the impermissible actions of people wearing police uniforms” and launched an investigation into the incident.

The opposition maintains that as many as five people died in the clashes, but say they have no evidence as the bodies were removed by authorities.

The Interior Ministry said Thursday that 73 people have been detained, 52 of whom are being investigated for “mass riots” — a new criminal charge that carries a prison sentence of up to eight years.

The United States has revoked the visas of Ukrainian officials linked to violence and threatened more sanctions. …it welcomed Yanukovych’s face-to-face talks with the opposition as a “necessary first step toward resolving this crisis.”

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said January 23 that if the situation in Ukraine does not stabilize, the EU “would assess possible consequences in its relationship.” Barroso also said he had received assurances from Yanukovych that the Ukrainian leader did not foresee the need to impose a state of emergency.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION SAYS HQ IN KYIV STORMED BY AUTHORITIES

December 10, 2013

Fox News on December 9, 2013, reported that heavily armed riot troops stormed the headquarters of a top Ukrainian opposition party in Kiev and stole computer servers, the party said, as anti-government protests crippled the capital for yet another day.

A spokeswoman for the party of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko blames police for the raid, but police have denied any involvement according to Reuters.

Ostap Semerak told The Associated Press that troops broke into the Fatherland Party’s offices. He said some troops were walking along its corridors while others were climbing in through the windows.

Tensions also rose as a double cordon of helmeted, shield-holding police deployed in the street near Kiev’s city administration building, which demonstrators had occupied and turned into a makeshift command post and dormitory.

…electricity to the building was cut off and occupiers began leaving, some carrying out blankets and other goods, expecting that police were preparing to storm the site. But a small crowd remained on the steps and in the street. About three hours later, the lights came back on and some of the protesters returned to occupy the building.

The protests were galvanized after police violently dispersed some of the demonstrators.

In a surprise move, Yanukovych announced that he would sit down with three former Ukrainian presidents to discuss a way out of the crisis. The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, was headed to Ukraine to help defuse the tensions.

At the square, black-robed Orthodox priests sang solemn prayers calling for peace amid heavy snowfall. Some talked to the police.

Opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk called for calm, telling several thousand protesters on Independence Square that police were ordered not to storm the building but to blockade the protest camp to deplete it of food and other amenities.

“I am turning to all Ukrainians: You must all go to the heart of the Maidan,” he said.

Some activists approached police lines, urging officers to come over to their side and even offering them food.

Opinion polls show that the EU is more popular among Ukrainians than Russia.

Wearing helmets and holding shields, Ukrainian police surrounded three tent encampments outside the government and presidential offices in central Kiev on Monday night. Riot police also began removing barricades on the approach to the government building. Most protesters remained standing.

World boxing champion and opposition leader Vitali Klitschko warned the authorities against any further escalation in tensions.
“We are calling upon law enforcement to restrain from using force against peaceful demonstrators,” he said as he tried to stop police from removing the tents.

A large protest test camp remained in place on Independence Square, the downtown plaza that is the epicenter of the protests.

The square is a few hundred yards (meters) from the protester-occupied city administration building, which a court has ordered demonstrators to vacate.

“We won’t let anybody into the building,” said Vasyl Khlopotaruk, one of the activists. “But we hope there isn’t bloodshed.”
Some activists approached police lines, urging officers to come over to their side and even offering them food.

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso dispatched EU foreign policy chief Ashton to Kiev on Tuesday, saying she will try to help defuse “the very tense solution that Ukraine is living today.” Barroso praised the demonstrators, saying they are “writing the new narrative for Europe.”

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt cautioned the government against using force.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Yanukovych by phone and urged him to defuse tensions and begin talks with opposition leaders, the White House said.

On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of protesters calling for Yanukovych’s ouster poured into Kiev, toppling a statue of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin and blockading government buildings.

Protesters on Monday vandalized another Lenin statue in the southern town of Kotovsk.

“Only the legs are left standing,” town spokeswoman Yelena Khaustova told the AP.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report